A Different Place Now, and Any Other Day ~ Two by Lindsay

My pleasure to offer you two bits of writing by Lindsay–a rather regular reader and contributor–inspired by past journal prompts. -PMc

September 22, 2012: We needed to see it again.
September 22, 2012: We needed to see it again.

ONE

We was in a bad place, me and Jim. Real bad, you know. Arguin all the time and comin to blows some days and I was even in the hospital once and the police came and they says how I could press charges if I’d a mind to. Yeh, so a real bad place. And we talked of endin it, the whole shebang, and I’d get the house and the kids and he’d get the car. That’s as far as we’d got.

Then he found some old pictures. On slides. From way back. And I caught him lookin at ‘em, standin at the window and the rainy day light to see ‘em by, and he held ‘em one at a time, between the pinch of finger and thumb, and up to the light, his eyes narrowed so as he could see.

His face then, all soft and smilin. You hadda see it. I say it, you hadda see it. And I asked him what he was lookin at and he passed one to me. It’s a different ways to see pictures. Now they’s on computer screens and we don’t takes the time, and even if we does we’s hurries through ‘em. But standin in front of the bedroom window, the slide lifted to the light and it’s like lookin at the sun or the moon and I lingered over that lookin.

It was a picture of me and Jim and one of the kids when they was just born and Jim lookin like the cat what’s got the cream and his arms around me and I’d forgot it could be like that with him. And he’d forgot too, cos there in the bedroom he puts his arm across my shoulders and he whispers in my ear and he says, all soft and tears catchin in his voice, how he wished he could have it all to do over.

I reckons what he means is he would do it all different. Well, maybes not it all, but the stuff with Julie next door and what they done that weekend the kids and me was away to my mother’s. And if he’d come with us then, we’d be in a different place now, sure as eggs, and maybes the same place as we can see in the picture.

I don’t have any words for him then, not for Jim and what he said, and I just stands there with his arm about me and the picture raised high and a rainy day light on my lifted face, and in that moment it is all different.

—by Lindsay

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September 16, 2012: On any other day...
September 16, 2012: On any other day…

TWO

On any other day she’d have stopped at Marty’s just long enough to pass the time, making comment on the weather and what’s going on in the world, and Marty selling her a newspaper and he’d smile and she’d smile back at him and he’d carry that feeling through the rest of the afternoon.

On any other day she’d drop a dollar into the cup of Billy the beggar on the corner of ninth and he’d bless her and wish her luck and he’d watch her walking away from him and the way her hips moved and the almost skip of her step, and he’d lick his lips and pocket the dollar.

On any other day the boys at the ‘Rise and Shine’ window cleaning company would stand with their faces close to the glass and they’d wave and whistle and she’d turn her head and wave back and that would make the youngest there think he was in love and his name is Bradley.

And the lady who feeds the pigeons in the garden up on Cranston Way would shake her head and tut at the shortness of Christie’s skirt and the girl called Alice would say she thinks the length of the skirt is just fine and if you’ve got the legs there’s no point in keeping them hidden.

On any other day this is how it would go. And Christie turning heads and the flick of her hair and her laughter like birdsong in the city and the day a little brighter when she’s been in it.

But today is not any other day, and she’s in a greater hurry than normal and a crease at her brow and she bites at her bottom lip and she does not stop at Marty’s; and Billy the beggar is a dollar lighter in his cup this day; and the boys at the Rise and Shine window cleaning company crane their necks looking this way and that, searching, thinking they must have missed her, and Bradley does not think he could have and he feels an empty ache deep in his gut; and the woman feeding the pigeons in the garden up on Cranston Way snips at Alice instead and it is Alice’s skirt that is too short today, only Alice thinks it isn’t. And Christie, in so much of a spin, and no one can afterwards say why, and she does not stop before crossing the road and the driver of the car does not see her and the world is stood on its head in a cartwheel moment and the days after that are changed and a new shape given to every other day.

—by Lindsay

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→Thanks again, Lindsay, for these wonderful moments in writing. I encourage readers to respond to the journal prompts through the comments section; there is a whole lot of good writing going on out there. And as always, thanks for reading!←

Make it Stop ~ By Lindsay

Another wonderful writing response by Lindsay (Who are you, Lindsay? Where do you come from?), this one inspired by Daily Journal Prompt #207: “You’re shaking,” he said.

MAKE IT STOP

Shaking, like a leaf. Like a tree in a high wind. Her teeth chattering and her words all chopped and stuttered so that we could not at first make sense of what she was saying.

She was cold. To the touch. Her skin chilled and her lips blue. And she was crying cold tears. We covered her nakedness, wrapped her in blankets. I made her hot sweet tea which we fed to her on a teaspoon like she was an injured animal or a very small child.

She wanted to sleep. Her eyes were heavy and she kept drifting off, her head too great a weight for her neck so that she seemed to fall away from us. We slapped her face and called her name, called her back to where we were. She looked startled then, as if she had been woken from a deep dream and did not know us or what we were about.

‘Stay with us,’ we pleaded, though I was not sure that it was the right thing for her, was not sure our wanting her to stay wasn’t something quite desperately selfish.

We took turns in walking her from one end of the kitchen to the other, making a show of it all, supporting her weight and drawing her attention to what her feet were doing and not doing.

‘Just one more step, you can do it, just one more.’

But then there was always another step and another, and the effort it took was evident on her face – the effort to be still here, to be taking breaths and seeing the world lurching in and out of focus and always trying to make sense of what was going on and who we were and the noise we were making so that she could not drop into sleep again.

It was the third time she’d done this. She was determined. One day we would not be here, or not here in time. Then it would be over, for her and for us. I did not think that would be a bad day, not necessarily. I could see her face and how she would look, her eyes closed as if she was simply asleep and a softened smile on her lips and her whole body relaxed. It was not a picture that hurt to see, and yet here we were dragging her back into the world she wanted to leave behind and thinking it was the right thing to do, the only thing.

We had a cat when we were children and I recall it bringing small gifts to the back door for us. Dead mice with their glassy black eyes still wet, and rabbits with their necks warm and limp, and birds with their wings broken and dragging in the dirt. Once she caught a mole and the screaming of that dying creature brought us quickly to the back door. The cat had ripped open its stomach and its pink innards were a mess on the back step and it was crying in pain, a high-pitched squeal. My mother said it would be the kindest thing, to put that small mole out of its misery, and she handed me the spade.

‘Please. Make it quick. Don’t hold back. Hit it hard, with the flat of the blade. Hit it once and make it over. Please, make it stop.’

I did what my mother told me and it was quick and the mole instantly dead and no longer in pain. It makes me shudder to recall that child that was me battering the mole with the garden spade and my mother comforting me afterwards and telling me over and over that it was the kindest thing, really it was. And now here she was, in pain and wanting to let go and looking at me with that same look from way back when the cat gifted us a dying mole, and ‘Please,’ she says again, ‘please make it stop.’

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→Thank you, Lindsay, for once again taking a few words and a photo and making it into something rich and artful. -PMc←

A Milestone ~ By Lindsay

Regular reader and terrific writer Lindsay sent in this response to Daily Journal Prompt #200:

A MILESTONE

Of course I know. How could I not know? A milestone become a millstone around my neck. All that stuff in magazines. And my friends already there – all of them, some on their third. And my mother always phoning and asking how things are with Kevin, or Tom, or now Ed, and I know what she’s really asking. I know.

‘Clock’s ticking,’ someone said once, and ‘Isn’t it time?’ and ‘I should get my skates on if I was you.’

But the thing is, they’re not me. Ok, Kevin was special, and I did think that maybe he could be the one. He made me laugh and smelled of lemons and took his socks off in bed – which they don’t all do. I really thought he could be it. He was a teacher. Science, I think. And he played football for an amateur team on Saturday mornings. He ticked so many boxes. But then he got serious, and he talked about us moving in together, and once we were out walking and he stopped to look at engagement rings in a jewellery shop window.

Tom was next. He was someone from work. We’d kissed once, at an office Christmas party and his hand down the front of my skirt. We’d both been a little drunk that night and afterwards we never spoke of it. Then, quite out of the blue, he asked me out on a date. He wasn’t Kevin, but I could have settled for him. But then he wanted me to meet his parents and he said they’d really like me, and, well, I wasn’t looking for that.

Now there’s Ed. He’s tall and handsome in an angular way. He’s sweet, too, and he has a certain manner, all polite, and attentive but not in a way that speaks of commitment or long-term. In fact we agreed early on that we’d see how things were and we’d not put pressure on the relationship. Sometimes he doesn’t call for days and that’s fine and he isn’t all clinging when we do meet up again and never asks what I have been up to since we last met. It’s almost casual. He seems almost perfect.

That’s why I have stopped taking the pill. I haven’t told Ed. There’s no need. A few months and he’ll be moving on, I am certain of that, and I’m ok with it too. By then, fingers crossed, the ticking clock will no longer be a concern. I lie next to Ed when’s asleep in my bed – though he doesn’t ever stay over. And lying next to him, I stroke the small rise of my belly and make-believe it’s already happened and I imagine all my friends knowing and my mother telling all her friends, too, but not mentioning that I will be doing it all on my own.

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→Thanks once more, dear Lindsay, for sharing the work you are inspired to write. – PMc←

Why Not? By Lindsay

A delightful thing happens every now and again: I get a comment posted on my blog by someone who was inspired by the journal prompts and photos I post daily. Of particular note are a number of these that come from a reader in the UK, someone who only identifies herself (I believe it is a woman) as “Lindsay.” She is a fabulous writer, full of haunting stories that are always filled with longing and wonder. Her brief responses are short-short prose pieces that make a reader consider and question, make a reader eager to see what she will write next. So here is another of her prose pieces, pulled from Journal Prompt #185. The photo is above; the writing prompt was:

WHY NOT? I WONDERED

~By Lindsay~

He was a good man. Helped old ladies cross the road and women with prams up stairs. He was quiet and did not draw attention to himself. He just went about his day, looking for ways to help, small ways to make the world a better place with him in it. He was a good listener, too. All the troubles of the city were delivered to him across cups of coffee or glasses of beer and he nodded his head and was sympathetic to all sides and careful not to offer advice, only comfort.

He was an angel, someone said, and the papers got a hold of that and it helped them sell a few more copies: ‘The Angel of Barstow’. And maybe he was an angel. In a way he was: all the good that he did and everyone in need turning to him for kind words.

His name was John. I never knew more than that. He had a second floor apartment on Maydew Drive, out by Pilling. I went there once. He asked me. He apologized for the mess. There were old take-out boxes stacked in the corners of his front room and the place smelled of stale food and farts. There was a desk in the room and he was in the middle of writing a letter. I noticed there were dollar bills folded into the envelope, like he was doing some good even then.

We’d been drinking and I’d told him about Brewer and how he was bastard for what he done and I was crying and John just reached out to me and laid one hand on top of mine, gentle as a girl. I didn’t want to be alone and so he’d said I should go back with him. And that’s how we were together in his apartment. Soon as the door was closed he was kissing me and I let him, and his hands were rough under my clothes and we fucked there on the floor of his front room and he called me such names as made me think he was not a nice man.

Afterwards he said he was sorry and he pressed money into my hands and he was the one that was crying then. He said he hadn’t meant for to hurt me and he stroked my hair and said again how he was sorry.

I don’t think that was why he jumped from the roof of the City Bank. Me and John was way back. I saw him sometimes being nice to other women, in cafés and bars, and I wondered if he took them home too and was sorry afterwards. Anyways, the papers got to calling him the Angel of Barstow and I didn’t hear anyone say otherwise so I think maybe he was in his own way.

→Thanks again, Lindsay, for the very fine writing. And whenever you are ready to tell us more about yourself and your work, perhaps through a View From the Keyboard, we are ready to know. Thanks for reading! ~PMc←